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Archive for March 13th, 2009

 em2

by Sam Juliano

Back in 1972 when director Jan Troell completed his sweeping two-part saga about Swedish emigration to America, The Emigrants/The New Land, based on the novels of Vilhelm Moberg, film icon and fellow countryman Ingmar Bergman said that he was the “best thing that’s happened to Swedish cinema in decades.”  In truth, based on the naturalistic and painterly beauty of his New World tapestries and the verisimilitude of his vision in his pair of quietly-moving epic films of a family trying to overcome oppressive hardships, Troell immediately took his place among world-class directors of the highest distinction.  Two later films, The Flight of the Eagle (1982) and Il Capitano: A Swedish Requiem (1987) were reasonably impressive achievements, with the former work receiving a Best Foreign Film nomination from the academy.  Troell, who began his career as elementary school teacher, later worked as a director of photography for Bo Wiederberg, another fellow Swede, whose Elvira Madigan is often mentioned by film scholars as the most ravishingly photographed film in history.  But with the two-part chronicle acknowledged here at the outset, Troell, a foreign director, has given us the only fully satisfactory film statement of one of the great historical phenomena, the mass movement of peoples  to this country in the nineteenth century.      (more…)

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 sunset-blvd-2-copy

by Allan Fish

(USA 1950 110m) DVD1/2

It’s the pictures that got small

p  Charles Brackett  d  Billy Wilder  w  Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D.M.Marshman Jnr  story  “A Can of Beans” by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder  ph  John F.Seitz  ed  Arthur Schmidt, Doane Harrison  m  Franz Waxman  art  Hans Dreier, John Meehan

William Holden (Joe Gillis), Gloria Swanson (Norma Desmond), Erich Von Stroheim (Max Von Mayerling), Nancy Olson (Betty Schaefer), Fred Clark (J.D.Sheldrake), Jack Webb (Artie Green), Lloyd Gough (Morino), Cecil B.de Mille (himself), Buster Keaton (himself), Anna Q.Nilsson (herself), H.B.Warner (himself), Hedda Hopper (herself), Jay Livingston (himself),

So Kevin Brownlow titled his book of interviews with forgotten stars of the silent era in 1969 and the title could be seen to encapsulate Billy Wilder’s wonderfully acerbic look at Hollywood as well as any, with Joe Gillis even saying at one point that Norma Desmond was “still waving proudly at a parade which had long since passed her by.”  Sunset Boulevard is a film to make one mourn for the silent era in more ways than one, undiminished by several imitations and an inferior Lloyd-Webber musical treatment.  A veritable mausoleum to twenties Hollywood, as forgotten as that mansion Norma calls home which, to quote Gillis, “seemed to have been stricken by a kind of creeping paralysis.”

            The plot follows a down and out movie writer from Ohio who is one step away from returning home and calling it quits when he gets a flat tyre on the eponymous Los Angeles road and turns into the first drive he can to escape the finance officers with a court order on his Plymouth Convertible.  It turns out to be the driveway of a forgotten legendary silent film star, Norma Desmond, who is expecting a man from a funeral parlour come to bury her beloved chimp with almost necrophiliac care (indeed, later on, when she talks of the scene in her Salome script where she kisses the decapitated head of John the Baptist, Gillis quips “they’ll love it in Pamona…“).  (more…)

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